By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – “Gone With The Wind” has been shelved. “Cops,” one of the most popular reality shows in TV history, has been outright canceled. And a range of mea culpas and statements of solidarity with the police-brutality protesters are pouring in, from the NFL to your local businesses.

What’s happening here?

“These statements of solidarity, whatever you want to call them, are basically the cover charge for doing business in America right now,” says retired Boston University media and marketing expert John Carroll. And he says even for a lucrative franchise like “Cops,” it’s the right corporate call.

“To have a show, even one that’s been running for 30 years, that’s basically designed to glorify the police, is out of sync with the times right now, out of sync with public attitudes,” he said.

Carroll expects to see few cases where the backlash against a statement or re-branding effort outweighs support for it. But there is a risk in the rush to be righteous.

“It can also backfire,” he said. “Look what happened to the NFL with their initial statement, to call it eyewash is an insult to saline solution everywhere. It was so counter-productive, so bland and lawyered up that it really backfired on them,” forcing the league to cop to being “wrong” for not supporting player protests earlier.

And while companies like HBO might earn points for pulling old movies full of racial stereotypes, Carroll expects that alone won’t deter activists from demanding more corporate accountability.

“What are you specifically doing about this? Are you contributing money? Are you changing the racial diversity of your corporation? Are you creating more opportunities for people of color? Those are the things that are going to count in the end, not the slogans, not the statements of solidarity,” he said.

A serious response to the current public outrage by the political establishment likely depends on the outcome of the fall elections; victories for pols who’ve downplayed police brutality will likely embolden future resistance to reform.

But this wouldn’t be the first time when the flexing of economic power – by boycotters or simply by vocal public pressure on corporations to “do the right thing” – has yielded results that in turn force political change.

Jon Keller

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